Monthly Archives: November 2013

Creation

Observation:

We used to be a lot more creative: I saw that sitting in the Met yesterday looking at clay bowls and noticing that we used to have to make everything we needed -we the people of the human race. Now what we mostly do is consume. We buy plastic bowls made in other countries in a supermarket lit with fluorescent lighting and everything is a little bit far away from the skin and bone.  This is what I was thinking about when I stumbled upon this in the Islamic art gallery:

Image

It is beautiful. And historic. The courtyard of a Moroccan Ryad full of traditional artistry serving as the very structure of it. But at the same time, it looks an awful lot like my first (Marrakshi) husband’s house. They weren’t rich people. They had just been in their little alley folded into the medina qadima (old city – a walled in section of the city built by the Arabs who came to settle in North Africa – called the old city for its differentiation from and contrast to the Ville Nouvelle built by French colonists) for several centuries. I visited and slept at and lived in that house over and over again over years. And then yesterday I found myself standing in front of what felt like a replica of it in a New York City museum. So I started to cry. I didn’t even read the little blurb about it on the card. I could not bother. What could some text typed on a card in a museum possibly tell me?

When I saw two men speaking in low tones and pointing at specific details in the exhibit, I knew they were going to tell me much more.

I asked if they were Moroccan. (Yes!). One of them started to explain what we were looking at and then quickly recognizing the knowing expression in my face and the familiarity in my nodding head, he asked: “You know this. Have you been to Morocco?” I told him a 10 second version of my 7 year “visit” to Morocco and said, “Isn’t it strange to see our home in a museum?” We remarked that we were all feeling homesick. Our bond was created.

Introductions: Mohammed, Abderrahim, Erin. They are from Fes. Fassi. We talked, forgetting about the art. Abderrahim – with his shy silence – made it clear that he doesn’t speak English. We switched over to a mix of the three( English, Moroccan Arabic dialect and French) – heavily favoring French – and told our stories.

Abderrahim is visiting Mohammed from Fes. Mohammed is an Arabic teacher for CUNY. Abderrahim is an accountant. Abderrahim and I pull out photos of our children. He has a little girl, Amira – 5 months old and zwiiiiiina (so beautiful) and he remarks that my Aslam is bogossss (a Moroccan transformation of the French beau gosse – meaning handsome). But we did not just politely appreciate one another’s children. We jumped up and down and squealed the words out and smiled and joked about arranging the marriage of Aslam and Amira. This is what happens in a real Moroccan ryad. This is how we relate to each other – how we greet and appreciate one another. This was better than the blurb on the card typed up by an employee of the museum. This was transportation to another place. And that’s what they put it there for.

And I found myself creating once again. Sure I am going to buy a plastic bowl from Target again someday. But I got to participate in creating a connection and I felt like a human being. I flipped a switch from a moment of feeling very tired and spent and a little bit lost – lost on behalf of all of us – to a moment of creating another human connection – another family. That’s what we are doing here.

I would like to thank the people of Morocco for awakening this in me. No one does it like you do!

And Pour mes amis nouveaux, Sidi Mohammed et Sidi Abderrahim, Je serai on contact tres bientot! C’etait un grand plaisir!!!!

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Plotting

Trapped.

That’s an uncomfortable word. And if you know that feeling then you also know the feeling of this one: Plotting.

I am plotting my escape to a new lifestyle right now. I have been for awhile but I didn’t know it in these terms until the wee hours of this morning when I woke up from a heart-racing dream of being stuck in a teeny tiny elevator made of glass. I could see out but no one seemed to see me and the height of the thing was just tall enough for me to sit cross legged on the floor and leave an inch of space between my head and the ceiling. That’s what I dreamt this morning. This is how I spent my sleep. Not restful, exactly. And just when I was about to lament, when I wanted to give into the feeling of exhaustion I was sure I would have when I sat up and started walking around the house – I realized that my fearful and uncomfortable dream would serve as a refueling of a kind. Though I did not rest peacefully last night, I awoke with a burning to plot my escape.

Gathering tools:

Right now my biggest challenge is to stop feeling like a victim. I hear it in my voice and I can observe it in the way I behave. I feel like I don’t have time. I leave dozens of blog posts unedited and unpublished in the administrative window of my webpage. I have journals with only a few pages written in them littered all over the house. Can you identify with this?  I would like to now put my plotting energy to activating all of the efforts I know very well that I have to make. I have all the tools lying around me in a tidy half circle on the floor. I just need to pick them up.

It may me I have to stop sleeping. Right? Do I? Last night I had all the intentions in the world to write and I started to but then I was interrupted by my son’s very honest and obvious needs – a bath, dinner, attention, a lunch made for him to take to preschool tomorrow. By the time I had finished those things, I found myself with my hands poised over the keyboard and my eyes drooping shut in front of a Disney movie.

Then there’s the business I mentioned earlier: www.shop.com/asherin. This is my online shopping portal. It’s the project that can fund my escape. My biggest challenge in running this business so far is that I do not talk about it enough. And how are people going to know if I don’t advertise? So here is a brief advertisement: If you create a login for yourselves on this site, you can comparative shop at thousands of popular stores and earn 2%-50% cash back while you shop. This site helps you find all the best deals and then gives you an added cash back discount on top of them. It isn’t complicated and there are no strings attached. If you are in another country, I have a global site: global.shop.com/asherin that will lead you to a wide range of high quality products from supplements to skin care to household cleaning products and offers free shipping on purchases $50 or more. Contact me for any details.

To arm myself for a future PhD in Islamic studies, I practice Arabic in the subway and have conversations with old friends in my head.  I teach my son silly things to say to my husband in Arabic and we all laugh. Baba, nta mudhik (Dad you’re funny). I have begun telling people: “I speak Arabic.” which I shied away from saying before because I thought it wasn’t really true. But it is. I am not proficient but I do. speak. Arabic. And I am simply brushing up in order to qualify to take a test that will make my CV look like one of an Islamic Studies doctoral candidate. I say this because I have to Because it is one of the threads of the web I am weaving. (Imagine this web being cast out and down from a broken window in my elevator cage – I squeeze through and nimbly shimmy down to freedom. I am the mother of a three year old boy. Spider-mom).

Right now I am wheel spinning in a limbo position of when and how to make my transition to freedom. It seems as though time is all I really need but is that an excuse? Doesn’t everyone say that? Did all the great ones have a lot of time to pursue their passions? Isn’t it true that the best of the best were desperately forging their paths in stolen moments just as I will need to do? This is official a call for stories, people. 

I am going to publish this one here not because I believe I have blessed anyone of you out there with a great piece of writing but because I HAVE to publish it. It is 7:15 am on Friday morning. I will close my computer and rush through dressing and preparing for work. Then the day will start to spin away from me. The publication of this humble piece of writing is an act of rebellion against  the voices in my head and the ticking of the clock.  It is an enactment of the process one of my dear girlfriends reminded me of yesterday: “Ponder ponder ponder until you find your own magical and radical solution.”

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Going for it.

To be honest I am all over the place in a way.

But I can tell it’s coming together. It’s not for nothing. I am a living brainstorming session.

Today I realized that I need to be writing this down. Again.

So here it is – bored to death by a job I think I only ever took because I was wrapped up in the idea of how good it would look on my resume and because I just wanted to prove to myself that I could do it. And I can. But I am not doing it – not very well anyway – because I don’t believe in it. And I am distracted by things that seem more important.

Here are the things that seem more important:

I have a business. I own a Market America/Shop.com franchise and I believe it has a lot of potential. I am learning to sustain the energy to grow it even when I am exhausted by the necessary overtime at my current day job.

I have a gorgeous son who is three years old and thinks I am the most interesting most beautiful most fun person in the world. I would like to spend more, less exhausted time with him.

My husband, too, is amazing. I may have mentioned him before. We have been through some unique experiences together. I was living in Casablanca, Morocco – teaching English – when we met. Over the years we lived in Turkey and the UAE as well as traveling through India together on what was a long month for him(!) before we ended up int he USA. Just over three years here now and we have spent the entire time day dreaming about when we can get out. We came to study and to gain experience, to give birth to our son and the whole adventure has always had an undefined but clearly necessary end point. Now he works literally an opposite schedule from me as a cook in a hip Cambridge – Harvard Square – restaurant. I see him for a max of 8 hours a week  – the only amount of time that over laps when we are both awake and in the house. That isn’t fun. I want to change that yesterday.

My studies. I started this blog just after I earned my Master’s degree. Almost two years later, I know that I want more more education. Lately that looks like a PhD and I have been trailing Tariq Ramadan among a few others in hopes that I can start a relationship with one of them that will lead me to a PhD program at an interesting school. By interesting, I mean – a school that will fund me to explore the impact of Islamic Feminist and reform movements in the West on Islamic thought in Islamic countries. By interesting, I mean not in the US. (I do not hate the United States. I get it. I see what it offers. I have benefited very much from being born and raised in the USA and I do not take that for granted but I also know to leave a party before it all goes fuzzy like a reflection in a fun house mirror).

Finding my passion and earning a living from it. ASAP. I am 16 weeks pregnant with my second child. A few calculations have strongly suggested that I cannot actually afford to go back to the job I am bored with. The cost of daycare and the breaking of my heart at the act of leaving a 12 week old baby in a daycare would make it economically idiotic. So I have essentially 6-9 months to make this work. Some may think it was irresponsible for me to go ahead and make another child when I know I can’t afford it. But I will make some thing happen and I suppose in some way I knew that a new child would send me into action like nothing else.

I will be exploring my options here.

I am thrilled by all of this in the way that one is thrilled by the horror of riding a steep roller coaster or some other amusement park death-defying contraption. I don’t know that I really want to be on but the ride has already started and anyway, I am not the type to turn back.

So for a little while now, this blog is going to be about going for it. All of it. Following my passion and earning a living from it. Making those things that are important to me central to my life, rather than something I long to do in my “spare” time which I never seem to have any of.

It has occurred to me to start a new blog to dedicate to this but I still think the premise of Border Intellectual is relevant here. Still on a journey, still standing on many frontiers, aiming with great pleasure to capture it all in my lasso of truth. I will make it tell me a story and I will pass that story to you. lasso of truth

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